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10 of the coolest things to do in Jamaica

written by Sarah Reid September 28, 2017
Floating in the waters off Ocho Rios, Jamaica

We know it best for Bob, Bolt and jerk chicken, but there’s plenty more to Jamaica, one of Intrepid’s newest travel destinations, than its most famous exports.

From breathtaking natural wonders to raging dancehall parties, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best ways to feel da riddims of this laid-back Caribbean isle.

1. ‘Hiking’ up Dunn’s River Falls

Tumbling down a series of terraces formed by limestone deposits, this stunning aquamarine waterfall near the north coast port town of Ocho Rios is one of Jamaica’s most popular natural attractions. Climbing the water-smoothed stairs up the face of the falls is arguably the most fun you can have working out on the island – guides are available for hire and rubber booties can be rented, but neither is strictly necessary. For the best experience, try to visit when cruise ships aren’t in dock.

Climbing Dunns River Falls in Jamaica

Take a hike up Dunns River Falls. Image by Sarah Reid.

2. Hitting the clubs and street parties of Kingston

Jamaica’s capital might have a gritty reputation, but there isn’t anywhere else in the Caribbean where you can party like you can in Kingston. For those keen to get a taste of the city’s famous dancehall scene, be sure to catch the Weddy Weddy Wednesday club night at Stone Love HQ, and look out for flyers advertising Kingston’s famous sound-system street parties that pop up all over town each week. In the hills of St Andrews overlooking the city, Dub Club is the place to throw some serious shapes of a Sunday night.

3. Saluting the reggae gods

You don’t have to go far to listen to reggae music in Jamaica, but if you’re a super fan, try to plan your trip around one of Jamaica’s reggae festivals including Rebel Salute (January), the Bob Marley Birthday Bash (February) and Reggae Sumfest (July). Bob Marley aficionados shouldn’t miss the museum dedicated to the icon, which is set into his former Kingston home.

Local opens a coconut in Jamaica

Fresh coconut and island vibes. Image by Kevin Sanon via Unsplash.

4. Hiking, biking and sipping coffee in the Blue Mountains

Rising up in a series of verdant green peaks northeast of Kingston, Jamaica’s Blue Mountains offer a lush, surprisingly cool escape from the tropical heat of the coast. On a clear day, it’s possible to see both coasts – as well as Cuba! – from the summit of the tallest mountain, Blue Mountain Peak (2256 metres), which is roughly a six-hour return hike from historic Whitfield Hall, a working Blue Mountains Coffee farm where you can try a cup of the world-famous brew. A more relaxing way to explore the scenery is by bike tour, which includes a visit to a coffee plantation.

5. Making glow angels in Glistening Waters

Home to millions of microscopic bioluminescent organisms that glow a bright blue-green when disturbed, this luminous lagoon in Falmouth, east of Montego Bay, is the best place to catch a light show in Jamaica. The rare lagoon – less than half a dozen are thought to exist around the world – is visited via cruise, with the option for guests to take a dip in the 1.5 metre-deep lagoon and watch the harmless organisms light up around your body.

6. Sipping Red Stripe in the beach bars of Negril

Jamaican beer in Negril

Jamaica’s own Red Stripe beer. Image by Jakob Owens via Unsplash.

If there’s one place in Jamaica to crack a beer, it’s in the beach bars of Negril, which boast some of the island’s best, uninterrupted sunset views. You’ll find plenty of bars along the west coast resort town’s stunning Seven Mile Beach, but none quite like Rick’s, where you can watch daredevils diving off the bar’s cliff-side perch into the aquamarine sea below.

7. Seeking out Jamaica’s best jerk chicken and patties

Marinated in a scotch bonnet pepper sauce and barbecued to perfection, jerk chicken (or pork) is Jamaica’s national dish. You can order it everywhere, but many claim Scotchies restaurant, which has branches in Montego Bay and St Anne, makes the best.

When it comes to snacking, it’s all about patties – inexpensive flaky pastry pockets with spiced meat and vegetable fillings. The jury is out as to which of Jamaica’s two major patty chains – Juici and Tastee – make the best, so you’ll just have to try both.

WHIP UP YOUR OWN JAMAICAN CUISINE ON INTREPID’S 8-DAY BEST OF JAMAICA TRIP 

8. Visiting Jamaica’s ‘great houses’

The hstoric Prospect Plantation house in Jamaica

Prospect Plantation is one of Jamaica’s oldest ‘great houses’. Image by Sarah Reid.

Jamaica’s heritage mansions provide a fascinating window into the country’s often dark colonial-era past, when hundreds of slaves were imported from Africa to work the sugar plantations that many of these stately homes presided over. While some now sit in ruins, a handful have been painstakingly restored into museums. Several of the best include the 17th-century Battlefield Great House and Gardens and the 19th-century Rose Hall near Montego Bay, and the 18th-century Prospect Plantation near Ocho Rios.

9. Riding a bobsleigh

Gimmicky as it is, whooshing down the Mystic Mountain bobsleigh course, inspired by the Jamaica bobsled team that debuted at the 1988 Winter Olympics, is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Kiss your lucky egg and strap yourself into the custom-designed sled for the one kilometre-long ride down the side of a lush mountain near Dunn’s River Falls.

10. Floating around in Jamaica’s famous lagoons

You’ll wonder why scenes from The Blue Lagoon, the 1980s flick that made Brooke Shields a household name, were filmed in Malta when you clap eyes on the vivid blue Jamaican lagoon of the same name near Port Antonio, a favourite holiday spot of celebrities including Beyonce. Less than two kilometres west, you’ll find another impossibly turquoise lagoon at Frenchman’s Cove, a favourite hangout of Burt Reynolds and the late Elizabeth Taylor (and even Queen Elizabeth II!) back in the swinging 60s.

Swinging over a lagoon in Jamaica

Swinging around Frenchman’s Cove and the Blue Lagoon. Image by Sarah Reid.

Tempted to explore the Rastafarian isle for yourself? Check out our new 8-day Best of Jamaica trip. Find out about other new trips for 2018 here. 

Feature image by Hugo Doria via Unsplash.

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6 comments

Kristin September 28, 2020 - 10:53 am

Definitely adding the Blue Mountains to our trip! Looks like it’s right up our alley. Thanks for the tip!

Reply
Alexei Russell June 16, 2020 - 4:05 am

Thank you for sharing. Jamaica is so special. Just about around every corner there is some new experience to be had, from incredible vistas, to the food, and of course the amazing people. Great article.

Reply
Ilona January 15, 2019 - 8:59 pm

These landmarks are so awesome, even when I lived there, I always went to these places again and again even though they are supposedly “touristy” but you just never get bored with them

Reply
Joerg November 24, 2018 - 5:03 am

We’ve just been on Jamaica in October. Low season, almost no tourists around. We stayed in Negril “The Westender Inn”. Great place outside the mainstream. From there we went around by rental car. A bit tricky in the beginning but you get used to the road conditions and Jamaicas driving style pretty quick. Our favorites: (1) Jerk Chicken and fruits sold by the locals at almost every corner. (2) the boat tours from Treasure Beach with Allen (http://allan-daley-boat-tours.mozello.de/)

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Jamaica My Way April 3, 2018 - 3:26 am

Nice article…..the only part I’d change is Dunn’s River falls and Negril. There are so many more beautiful falls on the island that aren’t overrun with tourism. Dunn’s River is super annoying. And Negril? Worst trap on the whole island. Far too many gigolos and hustlers for my liking.

There’s plenty to enjoy island-wide…..people just need to give themselves the time to explore and not do what everyone tells them to do in Jamaica. Go to the south coast. That’s where the real magic is!

Reply
Cheryl January 23, 2018 - 2:30 pm

Great article! #4 Hiking the Blue Mountain is our favourite.

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